A longish but well-researched article on Korea Times appeared on Wednesday about how ignorance is “breeding” racism in Korea. There are more than a million non-Koreans living in South Korea, which is about 2 percent of the current population.
Seemingly ignorant of what constitutes racism or discrimination, some Koreans utter racist remarks or engage in racist behavior. Apparently, they don’t realize what they are ignorant about and this ignorance becomes the seed of their racism.
Not only ignorance but a lack of anti-racism laws is emerging as a major stumbling block to preventing the nation from becoming a truly multicultural society.
I’ve been living here for more than nine years and I wouldn’t say I have not experienced some form of racism, but being a person who probably have mastered “deadmatology 101″ (my college friends used to teased me that I should teach the course) some things don’t really bother me.
For one, the “stare” is not something new to me. In the Philippines where I came from, people would stare and sometimes from head to toe. Seriously, people get killed there for staring. It isn’t that I enjoy being gawked at but it is also not totally offensive for me. When someone stares at me, I stare back with a raised eyebrow except if the “starer” is an old person. There are some cases when the “starer” is just curious about me and would start asking questions. I don’t take the “curiosity” negatively, instead I take it as an opportunity to talk about my country. A lot of times, the “starer” would want to know if I were from the Philippines because he or she had been to my country.
I don’t remember getting a different treatment from shop owners just because I’m a foreigner. At the kimbap store I frequent, the male owner isn’t so nice. He isn’t nice to the Korean customers as well, but I still go to his store because his wife is friendly and makes yummy tuna kimbap! I don’t think the grumpy old man is being racist towards me. He’s just plain grumpy!
Racism does exist here in Korea as proven by the foreigners in the article and my friends who have experienced it. However, I have experienced more positive things here and random acts of kindness than the stares I remember receiving in my nine years. That’s just me, though.